After falling into a 3-1 series deficit, it looked like the New York Rangers were 99% done in laying out the red carpet for the Pittsburgh Penguins to walk straight down to the Eastern Conference Final.
But the Rangers staved off elimination twice, once on the road in Game 5, and again at home in Game 6, setting up a winner-take-all Game 7 last night back in Pittsburgh. Backed by Henrik Lundqvist, the Rags came out victors by a score of 2-1, eliminating Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins on their home-ice.
Was the comeback fueled by the untimely and tragic passing of Martin St. Louis' mother last week? Was it getting back to basics on defense and locking down the Penguins offensive attack? Or was it Lundqvist stopping 102 of 105 shots he faced in the last three games?
I'll go with a combination of all three.
|March of the Penguins: King Henrik shuts the door on a furious Pens attack to eliminate Pittsburgh (via ESPN.com)|
The first half of the Eastern Conference Final is set. The Rangers are in, the Penguins are going home, and not without facing a multitude of franchise-defining questions this off-season.
As for out in the West, the Blackhawks again did what the Blackhawks do: by winning Game 6 in overtime by way of Patrick Kane's backhanded shot under the bar, they eliminated the Minnesota Wild, and in doing so improved to 12-2 in potential series-clinching games since 2009, as well improving to a perfect 11-0 in Games 5-7 dating back to the start of the 2013 playoffs (6 series in total).
New York Rangers @ Pittsburgh Penguins: 2 - 1, New York wins the series 4 - 3
Chicago Blackhawks @ Minnesota Wild: 2 - 1, Chicago wins the series 4 - 2